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A guide to heat pump systems and their prices

22,000 UK homeowners installed heat pumps so that they could provide their properties with hot water and central heating in 2017. According to Open Access Government, this is a massive 18% increase on the year before. The number of inquiries received by installers is also believed to be reaching record highs too at the moment.

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How much do heat pumps cost?

To install a heat pump costs between £6,000 and £18,000, depending on the type of heat pump you install and what you need to connect it to inside your property. However, they can deliver energy bill savings of up to £1,550 a year plus you’ll be right in line to receive considerable incentive payments from the government for installing a system.

On this page, CompareCompanies looks at:

  • what heat pumps are and what they do
  • what a ground source heat pump is
  • what an air source heat pump is
  • what ongoing financial incentives are open to homeowners who install one
  • how to get the best deal if you’re thinking about getting a heat pump for your home.

CompareCompanies connects homeowners with two local, qualified, established traders for free and no-obligation quotes on domestic heat pumps. Get all the advice, knowledge, and support you need plus enjoy the benefit of lower prices that competition between installers brings. Just fill in the form on this page and we’ll put you in touch – our service is free.

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heat pumps
heat pumps

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps work by moving the heat present in one location to a different location. In doing so, they use a fraction of the amount of energy required for conventional heating systems performing the same task.

As the Government tries to encourage homeowners to move to more renewable energy sources and to cut back on the amount of gas and electricity used, many environmental campaigners have hailed heat pumps for the reduction in the size of carbon footprints they deliver.

There are two types of heat pump:

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Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps offer homeowners savings of up to 50% on their heating bills in comparison to the standard heating systems found in most homes. The indoor elements of a ground source heat pump last for around 25 years whereas the in-ground loops can last up to 100 years themselves.

Experts indicate that ground source heat pumps will save homeowners between £750 and £1,500 a year on their heating bills (if your current heating is powered by electricity using an older, less energy-efficient system).

Installing a ground source heat pump will cost between £9,500 and £18,500 depending on the size of the system you choose but there is financial assistance available from the government if you want to install one (more on that later in this article).

How do ground source heat pumps work?

Ground source heat pumps are also known as geothermal pumps. They work by pumping water in pipes though areas of naturally occurring underground heat. That natural heat increases the temperature of the water and, in a similar way to a conventional boiler, that heated water is used for hot water from your taps or to provide central heating.

Unlike a conventional heater which, most of the time, uses fossil fuel-derived power to operate it, a ground source heat pump mainly uses the natural heat from the ground to power itself. Ground source heat pumps can heat the water in your pipes up to around 50OC however if you want your water to be any hotter, your heat pump will need to draw more electricity from the grid.

Do ground source heat pumps need planning permission?

Generally, no. It’s always wise to check with your council beforehand though, especially if you live in a listed building or a conservation area.

Ground source heat pump advantages

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A ground source heat pump offers significant annual reductions on your energy bill and to the amount of carbon dioxide your home releases into the atmosphere every year. Below are the typical savings homeowners make from a ground source heat pump system.

Switch from Average energy bill saving Savings on carbon dioxide
LPG (G-rated) £950-£1,550 2,750-4,500kg
Electric (older models) £775-£1,450 6,600-11,800kg
Coal £575-£1,025 7,500-12,250kg
Gas (G-rated) £425-£675 2,050-3,350kg
Oil (G-rated) £115-£230 2,750-4,750kg

Ground source heat pumps require minimal maintenance and, if you currently use LPG, coal, or oil, your heat pump will require no delivery of fuel to make it work.

If you currently have warm air heating around your home instead of radiators and/or you have underfloor heating, a ground source heat pump may actually perform just as well as a conventional heating system because these systems don’t need water to be as hot to function properly.

Ground source heat pumps enjoy very low running and maintenance costs and they make far less noise than gas boilers or air source heat pumps.

Ground source heat pump disadvantages

Although the figures given above offer homeowners a lot of saving potential, we must mention that if you have a new oil boiler, you are likely to end up paying more for heating and hot water over the year by installing a ground source heat pump. If you have a new gas boiler, the savings are likely to be less than £100 and for homeowners with a newer electric storage boiler or a newer LPG boiler, the savings shown in the table above will go down by up to two thirds.

Of the two types of system, ground source heat pumps are more expensive and they require a lot of space because of the way the pipes that run underground are configured. There may also be issues with the type of ground that’s underneath your home and its ability to retain heat.

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Air source heat pumps

Depending on your current central heating and hot water system, installing an air source ground pump could save you up to £1,350 on your energy bills.

Air source heat pumps are generally far less expensive to install than ground source heat pumps. Depending on the specifications of the system you choose, the parts, and the labour, you should expect to pay between £6,000 and £10,000 for your system. As with ground source air pumps, there are incentives available from the government to have one installed and we’ll cover that later in the article.

How do air source heat pumps work?

Air source heat pumps take heat from the outside air which it then uses to provide hot water to your home and warmth for your home meeting. It works along the same principles as a refrigerator which draws heat from the inside – so much so that it can find residual heat in the atmosphere when it’s more than 10 degrees below.

There are two types of air source heat pump:

  • Air-to-water – this type of system heats water which it then distributes to the radiators connected to your home’s central heating system. They are ideal for homes with underfloor heating systems.
  • Air-to-air – an air-to-air heat pump takes warmth from the outside air which it then uses in warm air vent heating systems. You can’t use an air-to-air heat pump to heat the water in your home.

Among homeowners who have air source heat pumps installed, the air-to-water pump system is by far the most popular because of its ability to heat water.

Do air source heat pumps need planning permission?

It’s complicated. Different rules apply in England, Scotland, and Wales. In Wales, air source heat pumps always need planning permission – there are no exceptions.

For England, to avoid the need for planning permission, your air source heat pump needs to comply with Micro Certification Scheme guidelines, it must not be more than a meter from the boundary of your property, and it can not be installed near the edge of a flat roof or onto a pitched roof. Anything installed in addition to an air source heat pump (including a second installation or a wind turbine) must go before your local Planning Committee as must any application from homeowners living in listed buildings or in conservation areas.

In Scotland, your heat pump must be the only one on that peace of land and it must be more than 100 metres away from any other home. If you live in a conservation area, nobody should be able to see the pump from the road. Under no circumstances at time of writing will an air source heat pump be allowed on a listed building or at a world heritage site.

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Air source heat pump advantages

The Energy Saving Trust recently released the following figures for the levels of savings that could be made by homeowners on their energy bills and their carbon footprint.

Switch from Average energy bill saving Savings on carbon dioxide
LPG (G-rated) £1,130-£1,350 4,150-4,950kg
Electric (older models) £795-£995 4,500-5,800kg
Coal £420-£530 6,800-8,300kg
Gas (G-rated) £395-£470 3,250-3,950kg
Oil (G-rated) £455-£555 5,150-6,150kg

Air source heat pumps also offer many other advantages, especially for homeowners with underfloor heating installed who benefit the most from financial savings and a reduced carbon footprint.

They have a long lifespan – homeowners can expect at least 20 years’ use from their system. Air source heat pumps are low maintenance too – all you need to do is to get serviced by an engineer once a year and clean it every few months.

Air source heat pump disadvantages

For newer gas and oil boilers, your fuel bills may actually increase as a result of installing an air source heat pump. You are likely to save money if you have a newer electric storage boiler or a newer LPG boiler how the savings shown in the table above will decrease by up to two thirds.

However, to get the same amount of heat in your radiators from an air source heat pump will probably mean that you need to replace your existing radiators with larger ones. The real rewards can also only be reaped if your home is properly insulated – that’s especially so in winter because air source heat pumps are less efficient in colder weather.

Also, in colder weather, the fan placed on the outside of your home can become very noisy.

Heat pump maintenance and warranties

Ground source heat pumps generally come with a warranty of between two to three years. You can ask for warranties on the quality of labour during installation of up to 10 years – ask your installer if he or she works to the Quality Assured National Warranties (QANW) service.

Some installers will offer the option of (paid-for) warranty extensions. Manufacturers recommend that you check the system once a year and that you call out an engineer every five years to inspect your ground source heat pump.

Heat pump financial incentives

The government is providing grants to encourage property owners to install low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). These grants can help property owners overcome the upfront cost of low carbon heating technologies.

The scheme is open to domestic and small non-domestic properties in England and Wales. It runs from 2022 to 2025.

What you’ll get

You can get:
£5,000 off the cost and installation of an air source heat pump
£5,000 off the cost and installation of a biomass boiler
£6,000 off the cost and installation of a ground source heat pump

How to find the right heat pump installer for your home?

Given the increasing popularity of heat pump installations into people’s homes, it’s important that you choose an installer who gives you the right advice on which heat pump is best for your home and at the best possible price.

The best way to do this is to get quotes from 2 installers local to you. Talk them through what you want and they’ll tell you whether it’s possible. By working with multiple companies, you’ll encourage competition between them and that always delivers the very best price for an installation.

There’s no obligation to accept any of the quotes given by our partner installers. And best of all, our service is free of charge too. To connect with trusted local traders, please fill in the form on this page.

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If you own an older home and want to find out more ways you can increase the energy efficiency of your home read our article on the subject.

Your questions answered

How do heat pumps work?

Heat pumps work by moving heat from one location to another. This is done using only a fraction of the energy that would usually be used by heating systems to do the same.

Are heat pumps environmentally friendly?

Heat pumps allow you to reduce the amount of gas and electricity used to heat your home. This means you can reduce your carbon footprint and make your home greener as well as warmer.

What is the difference between ground source and air source heat pumps?

Ground source heat pumps use natural heat from underground to heat the water in your home, and air source heat pumps use the air outside. They each offer their own distinct advantages.

How much do heat pumps cost?

An air source heat pump will usually cost between £6,000 and £10,000. A ground source heat pump is more expensive, ranging between £9,500 and £18,500. It is also worth considering how they can save you money as investments.

Are heat pumps high maintenance?

Heat pumps require very little maintenance to perform their best. You may occasionally need to defrost it after a very cold snap, and some homeowners choose to get a small shelter or cover to protect it and prevent this.

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